Why Content Is Replacing Clicks as the Cornerstone of Digital Marketing

Digital advertising over the past 10 years has become fixated on clicks and conversions. How much money does an advertiser need to shove into Facebook to generate how many leads?

While that advertising model is not going away and has its place, it is becoming more complicated with the influx of privacy changes that make targeting and measurement harder. As a result, VRTCAL Founder and President Todd Wooten makes the argument that content is king again. 

Why is content king in marketing today?

When content shifted into digital media years ago, the content side of the advertising model was distanced from advertisers due to the way in which advertisers bought and targeted the inventory. The purpose of the shift was to improve targeting and reporting. Initially, this was seen as a positive shift, but in the long term, it didn’t end up panning out that way. 

At the time, the only thing that mattered was the ROI for advertisers — real or not. Third parties added data, identities, and layers and as a result, and no one’s privacy mattered. It’s taken many years for the industry to realize the importance of privacy. Recently, the power of third parties has begun to unravel, albeit indirectly, through increased privacy initiatives, both public and private. 

With the removal of unnecessary and intrusive third parties from our content advertising model, the digital content owners — mobile apps and online publishers — will be the only real, viable source for data to accurately target and report. With the new structure we are moving toward, more of the ad spend will be placed in the hands of digital content creators, so they, in turn, can create more content. Ultimately that is how content will become king, once again. 

How are current trends, especially privacy, shifting the role of display in advertising?

The direction that privacy is headed will have a massive influence on how digital advertising evolves. There will always be users who explicitly allow their IDs to be tracked, whether it be via the new email-based IDs or other variants. However, even with new IDs, there’s concern that the platforms can disable those, too. What Apple giveth, Apple can taketh away, right? 

Therefore, the result can only be a digital media ecosystem that is not reliant on user IDs and personal information. And while everyone is talking about the importance of first-party data, it’s only one part of the equation. Content creators will become more involved with the advertising value of their content. They will identify moments in their content that will allow advertisers to better target their campaigns, such as moments based on emotions (e.g., happy, sad or energized). 

There are hundreds of defined moment types. These moments will be anonymized, void of any personal information. In addition, they will be layered with device data including whether the device state is hot, cold, walking, or in a viewable position, for example, and provided through standards and processes that protect privacy. Privacy should become the most influential force that directs how the digital media advertising sector evolves.

How will video ads evolve in the current privacy-forward era?

I’d like to touch on rewarded video in mobile apps as I find it to be of most concern in digital media right now. Rewarded video can be the biggest ad revenue generator for many app developers. The rewarded video ad unit allows app developers to earn ad revenue and acquire new users to generate in-store purchases. 

Until now, user IDs have been used for user acquisition through targeting and attribution. In our new and evolving state of privacy protection, user IDs will become less available for the user acquisition model, and the old system of targeting and attribution will become less viable. Understandably, this has many, if not all, app developers concerned. Likely, targeting will not be the biggest issue for user acquisition through video ads because attribution through third parties will hold that claim. Historically, targeting for branding campaigns has differed from targeting for user acquisition, but it won’t be too different in the future. 

The real question we must consider is what will fill the massive attribution hole. Will it be the different kinds of new user IDs that are expected to be allowed or temporarily allowed by the Apple and Google stores? Or will it be through performance modeling or some other new method?

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018 and compiled the daily newsletter since 2016. Joe is a journalist who has written widely about technology, business, and politics. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.
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